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Activity 1.1.

2 Investigating an Outbreak
When Sue walks into the college infirmary, she is shocked to find so many other
students waiting to see the doctor. Could all of these cases possibly be related? Sue
figures she just has a cold. She will get some medicine from the doctor and be on
her way. If only it were that simple!
In a suspected disease outbreak, scientists and doctors must work diligently to
gather evidence and to identify the cause of the illness. The ability to identify the
pathogen, the infectious agent or germ, involved is crucial to stopping the spread of
the disease and to providing proper treatment to those who are affected.
You have been assigned to be the chief investigator for the case at Sues college. As
you investigate this potential outbreak, you will be provided with information about
patient symptoms and patient medical histories. Research these symptoms to
generate a list of possible diseases or disease agents that might be responsible for
the cases at the college. You will perform diagnostic tests as well as analyze DNA
sequence data to narrow down your list. Gather as much information as you can and
brainstorm possible diagnoses for those who are affected. Keep a detailed record of
all of your evidence in your laboratory journal. Work quickly, but pay attention to all of
the clues. You will receive more information about the case in the next few activities.


Computer with Internet access and Inspiration software

Activity 1.1.2 Student Resource Sheet
Laboratory journal

1. Obtain a Student Resource Sheet from your teacher.
2. Work with a partner to analyze the information presented on the Resource Sheet.
As you read the patient information, complete the following:

Highlight or underline important information in the case history of each patient

which appears to relate to a possible diagnosis. Be on the lookout for patient
symptoms and any possible risk factors or lifestyle factors that affect the patients
chance of being infected with a particular illness. Organize this information in a
chart, graph, table, or graphic organizer. This will be called the Patient
Symptoms/Risk Factors Organizer.

Use the Internet to generate a list of possible infectious agents or illnesses that
may produce symptoms similar to what you are seeing in each patient.

Begin to match information from your list with information presented in the case
2010 Project Lead The Way, Inc.
Medical Interventions Activity 1.1.2: Investigating an Outbreak Page 1

3. Keep a detailed record of your observations and research in your laboratory

journal. Identify the disease agents most likely involved in the cases at the
college. You will add more information to your Patient Symptoms/Risk Factors
Organizer as you further investigate this outbreak.
4. Explain your findings and hypotheses to the class before you continue on to
Activity 1.1.3. Share your list of possible pathogens and describe how you arrived
at your conclusions.
5. In your laboratory journal or using Inspiration software, create a flow chart or web
that illustrates possible connections between the patients who have shown up at
the infirmary. Continue to update this chart as more patients are added and refer
to these connections later in the lesson when you try to trace the path of the

1 Why is information about a patients lifestyle and about possible environmental
exposures important when investigating an outbreak?

2 What medical interventions can be used to treat and contain the outbreak of an
infectious disease?

3 What do you think is the most likely cause of Sues illness? Provide evidence to
support your theory.

2010 Project Lead The Way, Inc.

Medical Interventions Activity 1.1.2: Investigating an Outbreak Page 2